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Labour charts path to industrial harmony in 2020

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As the year 2020 progresses, guaranteed industrial space in an atmosphere of peace would be needed to deliver an economy that is productive.
   
For a productive economy to be birthed, the workforce must be happy both at and off work premises.
   
To make Nigeria a more productive economy in 2020, labour movement insists that employers must make the workplace conducive for economic activities to thrive.

   
To them, this should be the focus in the new year if Nigeria is to surmount her present economic challenges.
   
Expectedly, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said it will pursue the implementation of the new minimum wage in the states with vigour while ensuring that the consequential adjustments of the new wage structure are negotiated at the state level. 
   
In his new year message, President of the Congress, Ayuba Wabba, who expressed worry about the increasing level of unemployment in the country, said NLC will join the government in seeking a solution to the challenge by convoking a national job summit.
   
He said: “In the year 2020, the Nigeria Labour Congress will mount a very robust campaign for the generation of mass jobs and for already existing jobs to be decent. To this end, the NLC is perfecting plans for a National Job Summit in 2020. We will get stakeholders, experts, policymakers, concerned demographics and workers on a roundtable to find answers and solutions to Nigeria’s burgeoning unemployment crisis.”
   
He opined that patronising made in Nigeria goods and services will help tackle the menace of unemployment.
   
Also, the Congress said security agencies must shelve the toga of ‘above the law’ posture some of them adopted in past years, saying, “a major sore point in the outgone year was the penchant for overzealous security agents to resort to self-help in the prosecution of their duties. By so doing, they forgot that Nigeria is a democratic state governed by laws. We all have a duty to protect our institutions and our fledgeling democracy from the perception of abuse and from actual hijack by those whose primary responsibility should be to protect and defend our democratic institutions. The desecration of our courts by the State Security Service is an ill wind that should never blow again.”
   
In addition to the protection of democratic institutions, NLC called for the defence of civil liberties, which include the right to organise, freedom of association, the right to protest and the right to embark on strike actions.
   
It reminded those in political leadership of the country presently that respect of human rights are guaranteed by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and relevant ILO Conventions, and so, the rights are fundamental, sacrosanct, inviolable and non-negotiable.
   
The central labour body reiterated its resolve to pursue national peace by continuing to put the needed weight on the things that unite Nigerians and hold in contempt the things that seek to divide them.
 
“We encourage our political leaders to exemplify the same by their utterances and conduct. By so doing, we would be laying an enduring foundation for national peace, unity, and development.
   
“In 2020, we demand that the government must prioritise the security of lives and property. Nigeria has seen enough bloodshed. While we commend the sacrifice and commitment of our soldiers and other security personnel in the war against terrorist insurgency and other violent crimes across Nigeria, we urge the government to do all it takes to end the bloodletting and brigandage in different parts of the country. As we have always canvassed, the war against insecurity must be anchored on human security. We must feed hungry stomachs. We must create jobs to engage our youths. An idle mind is devil’s workshop,” it said.
   
The planned renovation of the National Assembly complex with N37 billion drew the ire of the NLC.
   
The body observed that given the level of Nigeria’s under-development, it is a misplaced priority to renovate the complex at such a humongous amount, adding, “Nigerian workers are deeply concerned about plans to renovate the National Assembly with about N37 billion. Given our developmental deficits and level of poverty, we consider the proposed renovation as a misplaced priority. This is more worrisome given that the National Assembly Complex has always enjoyed top-notch routine maintenance. In the new year and in the decade ahead, we urge government at all arms and tiers to be altruistic in their priorities and to demonstrate utmost fiscal restraint and discipline.”
   
NLC also berated the infraction and outright violations of Nigeria’s Pension Reform Act in all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
   
It urged all the state governments and the Federal Capital Territory Administration to fully comply with the Pension law by ensuring the immediate enactment of enabling laws on Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for states yet to enact same, prompt remittance of both employers and employees contributions to pension fund administrators, actuarial evaluation for retirees whose pension is due and procurement of a group life insurance policy for workers under the CPS.
   
On his part, President of TUC, Quadri Olaleye, defended that the Congress did not oppose some policies that were deemed offensive last year because of the need to save the ailing economy.
   
Amongst some worrying issues, TUC said, are the minimum wage and its consequential adjustment, an unbridled sack of workers without redundancy negotiation, breach of the collective agreement and casualisation of workers.
   
TUC also flayed the democratic system Nigeria operates, saying it has proven to be the most expensive in the world, which is undermining the quality of life of average Nigerians.
   
It explained: “The cost of governance in Nigeria is highly unreasonable, no hyperbole. Investigations have revealed that political officeholders are one of the highest-paid in the world. They borrow to massage the greed of a few in a country adjudged to be the poorest in the world.
   
It reiterated that the movement will never support the passage of the ‘hate speech bill’, saying: “How do you tell a people denied the basics of life not to cry out? To silence the poor masses from crying some individuals are pushing fiercely to pass a ‘Hate Speech Bill’. The Congress will never support that Bill. Why are those behind the law perturbed if they do not have skeletons in their cupboard? We advise the people behind the obnoxious Bill to use their time to pursue a rational agenda.”
 
TUC also raised an alarm bell on the rising debt profile of Nigeria.
   
“The country’s debt profile is increasing at an alarming rate. International bodies, including the World Bank, have severally warned on the danger of our ceaseless borrowing. Besides the $29.96 billion loan which has gained the approval of the National Assembly, reports have it that the country has so far allegedly borrowed $1 billion from African Development Bank; $1 billion Eurobond, with additional $500 million expected from Global Medium Term Note Programme. The N5.8 billion borrowed from China Exim Bank is hanging on the country’s neck. Over 30 per cent of the Federal Government’s revenue will be used for debt servicing.
   
“The question is how have these loans benefitted the ordinary masses of the country? How can we use as much as N2.7trillion to service debt and budget a paltry N2.4 trillion on expenditure? It is hard to come to terms with the position of the Information Minister, Mr Lai Mohammed who told Nigerians that $84 billion loans is nothing to worry about. We are tempted to feel that politicians are not in tune with the plight of the masses,” it stated.
   
To the General Secretary of the National Union of Hotels and Personal Services Workers (NUHPSW), Leke Success, labour expects government to be proactive about many things.
   
“In this year, the government must prioritise fixing of roads. Almost all the roads in the country are now death traps. Almost all the roads in every part of the country allow kidnapping to take place. In fact, one can say that the roads are one of the major factors boosting kidnapping. Government must move away from lip service and social media propaganda that claim humongous work has been done but in reality, almost nothing is being done when one gets to the roads.
 
“Government must also deal with insecurity whether in the form of banditry, armed robbery and attacks by terrorist groups. Apart from that, labour wants to see a collaborative effort between government and labour with a view to tackling unemployment in the country. As it is, labour has become a strong voice in the Nigerian economy. We have added speaking on behalf of the Nigerian people to the struggle for the betterment of the workers who are our members. So, we are a very good group of stakeholders that government should partner with us in many ways more than one in ensuring that Nigeria is better for all with a strong and growing economy,” he stated.
   
A former President of TUC, Peter Esele, said labour must constructively engage government on every issue of national importance, and constantly tell government what is wrong and then offer solution in their criticisms.
   
He urged state councils of NLC and TUC to scrutinise and review the budgets of state governments, identify areas of wastage and point them out saying this will help stem the tide of corruption in the country.   
   
In this year, Esele insisted that labour must expand their areas of influence and stop being reactive to national issues.
   
He added: “By proactive means, they must look at the economic climate, study the national environment, and make an informed decision on issues as they emerge. To make things happen, you must increase their sphere of influence. Majority of things that happen do not take place in front of the cameras. Labour can only make things happen behind the scene when they have the correct contacts.”
   
On the plan by the Federal Government to borrow from the pension fund for developmental purpose, Esele urged labour to interact with government on the plan.
   
He urged labour to demand a blueprint of how government plans to spend the money, and how it plans to pay back.


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